Tuesday, October 31, 2000

A Year Down Yonder - and Another Novel from Me a Year from Now?

This is the fifth book I've read in my exploration of Newbery-award-winning children's books. A definite pattern is developing. Like Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me and Clare Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest, Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder explores the life of a girl making sense of life in another era. Like Manifest, it also helps if the story involves being displaced from one's family while they try to get back on their feet financially.

The cynic in me says that apparently to win a Newbery all I have to do is mimic this apparently tried-and-true formula. I must admit, though, that these books have inspired me to write a tale in a similar vein. Hopefully my motives remain, however, to serve the story first and foremost and not shoot for some lofty and unlikely dream. My newest story idea is that of a 12-year-old girl who spends the summer with her grandparents at Topsail Island in North Carolina. While helping Grandpa at the sea turtle rescue center he runs, the girl helps rescue a turtle with a tracking device. The device leads her on an interesting journey - and the possible discover of Atlantis.

Sea Turtle Hospital in South Padre Island, Texas

In the Newbery winners I've dissected thus far, the real story behind all of them is the journey on which the main character goes. The character doesn't actually do any traveling, but learns about herself because of the people around her. In Peck's Yonder, Mary Alice's year with her grandmother opens her eyes to just how much Grandma takes care of the people in her town despite appearing very gruff and unapproachable.

Book Trailer

My greatest lesson in all this is to 1) create an interesting story and 2) populate it with interesting characters. Hopefully, let's say a year from now, we'll see if I've accomplished that with my Atlantis-themed book.

Richard Peck on Writing

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